April 6, 2018: I Will Appeal to This
April 6, 2018
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Today’s Bible Reading:
Joshua 13-14, Psalm 77, Mark 2:13-17, 1 Corinthians 5
In this psalm is a great principle that any disciple of God can use for their own suffering or perplexing situation still today. The psalmist is in difficulties. It is “the day of my trouble” (77:2). We are not told exactly what this “trouble” was, but that it is characterized as “the day of my trouble” underlines that it was beyond the mere normal regular annoyances of life. This was a particular day, a particular time, a particularly and especially difficult season. We say that certain seasons, in the famous words, are the best of times and also the worst of times. Even in terrible days, a little sunshine falls. But there is not even—so it seemed—any mitigating experience of the more positive for the psalmist at this moment. It is all “the day of my trouble.” Are you in that kind of situation? Pay careful attention to the principles in this psalm.
First of all, he cries “aloud” to God. That it was “aloud” is emphasized by repetition in close proximity (77:1). I am not one of those who believe that prayer is more efficacious if it is spoken with increased volume. God can hear the quietest whisper and can read the thoughts of our minds—there is no need for our prayers to be spoken physically through our vocal cords, let alone for those vocal cords to issue in a bellow. I have heard some teach that God gives special attention to the loud cry. Surely that cannot be the case: God can hear perfectly well, and pure volume (as also the use of “many words” as Jesus taught in Matthew 6:7) is no indication of being more spiritual.
No, the teaching of Scripture is that prayer is not more effective for its lengthy words or fancy diction—not even for our own righteousness, for such righteousness is merely filthy rags before our holy God. But, that all said, this psalmist is in earnest. And in this instance that earnestness did issue in a physically loud voice. We are physical beings, and spiritual motions in our heart produce physical activity. Kneeling before God will not impress God if our heart is not kneeling, but if our heart has a kneeling attitude, and if the opportunity presents and it will not show off our piety like the Pharisee on the street corner with his lengthy prayers, then kneeling is the natural response of a heart humble before God.
Similarly, earnestness, or desperation even, naturally increases the volume with which we speak. It is not always the case; a whisper can carry a thousand miles. But the one who is truly in earnest, even desperate, will not mince words but cry out loudly. So the first principle here is that when we pray to God about our situation, let us pray in faith, persistent faith, importunate faith, even loud faith.
But then second, look at the content of this prayer. It is not a brainless rant; it is a carefully and theologically constructed principle. “I consider the days of old, the years of long ago” (77:5). Who would have thought that a knowledge of church history would come in helpful in the day of your trouble? But so it is. Who would have thought that a knowledge of Bible history would come in helpful in the day of your trouble? But so it doubly is. And so the psalmist says,
Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High” (77:10).
In other words, the psalmist is recalling what God has done in the past, what God has promised previously, so that he can have confidence to “appeal” to God to act in similarly dramatic and powerful ways today.
So he recalls the crossing of the Red Sea, that great Old Testament event of redemption. “Your way was through the sea, your path through the waters” (77:19). Because God saved his people then, therefore, prays the psalmist, God can and, if he is true to his character, will save his people again now.
You can follow the same principles in your prayer to God in your “day of trouble.” You can “appeal” to what God has done in the past. Lord, you are the same God who rescued God’s people from Egypt, who raised Jesus from the dead, who sent your Spirit to empower the early church; you are the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; you are the God of Paul and of Augustine and of Luther and Spurgeon; you are the God who sent revival again and again in the past. This is who you are, O Lord, and this is what you have done. Nothing is too hard for you; and I appeal to this, your actions in the past. Do them again, O Lord. Revive us again, O Lord. Save us, O Lord. Amen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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